Prince William County Sheriff C.A. Rollins has dismissed two of his deputies for failing to follow proper security procedures at the county jail in Manassas following the escape of nine prisoners from the 29-year-old facility on Sunday.
Chief county jailer Dale Potts would not release the names of the guards, who were fired Sunday, but said they were dismissed for not being at their proper posts and for failing to lock two main jail doors through which the prisoners escaped.
Three of the prisoners remained at large last night, including one of the two who allegedly abducted James Vannoy, 71, from the Annenburg Manor nursing home in Manassas and then released him near Springfield Mall in Fairfax County. Vannoy was treated at Fairfax Hospital and released, according to police.
Sunday's jailbreak, the third escape in 11 months, brought a flood of calls from citizens who spotted prisoners running through neighbors' yards. There also were two reported assaults and a car theft, in addition to Vannoy's abduction.
The jailbreak occurred about 2:30 p.m., during visiting hours, according to jailer Potts. It came after guards apparently forgot to lock the door to the main cellblock and a second door at the main entrance of the jail.
A group of inmates in the basement floor of the three-story jail, which is designed to hold 30 inmates but had 111 as of Sunday, overpowered two guards who were returning prisoners to their cells. The escapees then made their way through the unlocked doors and ran past a group of startled visitors waiting in the lobby of the jail.
"If the security procedures had been followed, there wouldn't have been a jail break," Potts said. "The deputies are supposed to have all inmates" locked inside the main cellblock. "There were supposed to be two men on the central cage door. There was only one. Once they the prisoners overpowered the guard there was nothing between them and freedom. They just ran out," said Potts.
Most of the inmates fled on foot through the nearby residential community.
"I was standing outside playing football and this guy came up and asked to use the phone," said Bryan Harrover, who spotted one of the escaped prisoners outside his house about four blocks from the jail. "I thought he looked kind of funny because it was cold and he only had a tee-shirt on. He said his car broke down. But my mom went out and called the police to get him."
Criminal justice officials in Prince William, meanwhile, are counting the days until the opening of the county's new $5.7 million jail, scheduled to be completed in five months.
"Nothing's fail-safe," said assistant county prosecutor William Hamblen, who also serves on the 11-member board of directors of the new jail. "But I tell you, a lot of people will feel better when the new jail opens. It will be a lot more difficult to break out of there."